Off To Canada (Again)

Holidays in Canada


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The Ice Fields Parkway

The Ice Fields Parkway is one of the great drives. In summer you see cars pulling over at the side of the road to watch wildlife. Bears, Sheep, Goats, elk, you name it. Glorious blue skies stretch forever and huge mountains tower above you. In the winter it’s a scary place. It’s NOT EVEN WINTER YET and it’s a scary scary place. We had to drive back along it to get to Banff from Jasper and when we drove to Jasper a few days earlier it was tricky in places. In those few days, it had snowed and got colder. The surface which originally was good in places, dodgy in others, now was basically an ice rink which occasionally cars and trucks thundered along. If you’ve watched Ice Road Truckers you know what I mean. Amanda was a star and drove about 2/3rds of the journey and I drove the first little bit and the end bit into Banff,

The scenery was incredible but I have to admit I was glad to finally arrive in Banff. I’d love to do it again earlier in the season when the ice is nice and high on the mountains and not on the road surface.

The Fairmont Banff Springs hotel doesn’t disappoint. It’s magnificent, a castle in the Canadian Rockies, nestled amongst trees and alongside the Bow River. Our view is amazing (if a rather small window).

DSC04877-HDRThis morning I left Amanda to her coffee and oatmeal and went for a walk in -14C temperatures down to the Bow River Falls. I was all alone for about 30 mins before a single person turned up. It was like having your own personal paradise (if your idea of paradise is snow, ice and -14C temps). I loved it. So much so that I went back, ate my own oatmeal, had a coffee and went back for more, while Amanda went for a swim.

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As it’s our wedding anniversary today, we’re having a nice meal in the hotel but I might pop out again as the sun starts going down 🙂


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Lac Beauvert Loop

The last time we visited the Jasper Park Lodge was 7 years ago. A pause in the journey from Vancouver to Toronto by train. We didn’t have a wheelchair back then. Walks were slow and tended to be short. However we did manage the Lac Beauvert Loop. A trail around the lake that would probably take an able bodied person about 45 mins (approximately…I’m guessing) took us about 2.5 hours. Thankfully there are rest stops and even some toilets (although as anyone who has experienced Canada’s National Parks toilets in warmer times, they can be a bit of a ‘hold your nose moment’). The real downside was Amanda was pretty much unable to walk for the next day.

This time we have an electric wheelchair. We used the service road that goes behind the trail for part of the way and did a big chunk of the loop. We did try the actual path at one point but some tree roots prevented us from going very far, we need a 4wd wheelchair. We saw some mule deer and a pika which was seriously cute.

Once back, Amanda went for a swim and I edited some photos (and had a beer) before lunch. Have I mentioned CiN yet? CiN is ‘Christmas in November’ here at the JPL

Christmas in November at the Jasper Park LodgeIt’s incredibly popular. The lodge is decorated as though it’s Christmas Eve. We have a giant tree (photos to follow later), a life size gingerbread house and baubles and tinsel as far as the eye can see. Today, or perhaps tomorrow, hoardes of (mostly) women will descend on the JPL to take part in talks and demonstrations on things like tree and/or table decorating, present wrapping, and designing the perfect capsule wardrobe for the holidays (that was one that stuck in my mind from last time we were here). It’s crazy but it’s much loved here.

I went for a walk by myself in the afternoon around the other side of the loop while Amanda went for a manicure. It was pretty chilly I have to say. It’s getting colder. As I type this it’s -9C outside so I may have to put a long sleeved top on today. I saw those mule deer again, I think they’re following me. I also spotted a tiny red squirrel. I’ve never seen one in the wild before and I was amazed how small they are. Seriously cute.

We’re off the Lake Annette today as we’re reliably informed by one of the waitresses here that they have put a proper wheelchair friendly path around it. Hope that’s true.


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That drive

Once we arrived at Jasper, getting some drinks (and a bit of food) seemed more important than updating the blog, hence the photo-only piece yesterday, but let’s go back in time…… cue Scooby Doo music.

We knew that the drive from Lake Louise to Jasper takes around 3hrs, so allowing for multiple stops we gave ourselves a few hours spare and set off around 10am. As we left, it started snowing. Only light flakes, blowing in the wind but it set the tone for most of the journey. Previously Amanda asked me if I’d be ok taking over the driving if needed and, of course, I said yes. The main reason Amanda does the driving is so I can jump out and take photos while she tends to stay in the car and read her book. It’s a well used system. I only found out later that she was nervous about driving in the snow, or more accurately, in a blizzard.

The drive is spectacular. There are no other words needed. You need to see it for yourself.

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Icefields Parkway and all that commuter traffic

There was little traffic on the road, which is just as well because the conditions became worse and the traffic that was there seemed to be used to the conditions more than us. They overtook us, and I’m sure they were shaking their heads as they did so. We stopped at Bow Lake and I felt a little like Jack Torrence, for you Stephen King fans, at the end of the movie in the maze. Very cold. Like really cold. Very beautiful stop though. The wind coming off the lake was bitter and the snow blowing around made it feel very remote, even though you could see the road and people passing.

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Bow Lake

As we moved on the snow started coming down more and the road surface got worse.

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Who needs to see the road markings? Not us.

We did have one moment where Amanda was going a tiny bit fast to turn a corner into a parking lot (to be fair she was going about 10mph) and we skidded a tiny bit but I think that made her rethink her cornering speed and from that point on we went a little slower but made each turn a little less scary. We have to go up some pretty big hills and were surprised to see ‘normal’ cars zipping around either going up or down. I mean, no 4wd? Crazy canucks. Our country would shut down for 2 weeks if the roads were like the above picture.

The conditions got better, for driving at least, and the snow went and the rain came. it was expected and it made the last bit of the journey a little more secure if not as pretty. As we arrived at the Jasper Park Lodge however it started snowing

We’re due for more before we leave so I hope the drive back down to Banff in a few days time is …..umm…fun?

Oh, we added an elk to our wildlife list after that huge Grizzly. Right outside our room.

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The elk visiting


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Packed and ready to go…almost

Dropped the kids off at the babysitter’s last night…..ok we took the cats to the cattery but you get the point. The house felt really weird later with no cats in and I didn’t like it. Not normal. How do people with no cats live like that? Crazy people.

Finally got round to packing around 7:30pm (Amanda did hers earlier in the day) and I swear I get later every time. Next time I’ll be packing the morning we depart. A few more things to sort and then, in a couple of hours, we can hit the road to the airport.

  • My camera bag weighs almost as much as my actual luggage
  • I have more USB/charging cables than socks
  • The weather is getting even colder at our destinations so had to rethink on-the-fly my choices of footwear/jumpers. The plus point is there is snow on the mountains so hopefully some pretty pictures 🙂

Next post will probably be in Canada

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Beer in Jasper

I received an email about our forthcoming visit to Jasper from the hotel. It read….

Thank you for making a reservation for our River Valley Package at Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. This Jasper Beer & Barley Summit is a 3 day retreat bringing together legends of the brewing & distilling industry, today’s breweries & distillers, home brewers and passionate beer enthusiasts

This all sounds rather super except I didn’t book the River Valley Package, although I do quite like beer and stuff that’s been distilled. I was in two minds whether to contact them to correct the obvious error. I mean if I leave it, do I get free beer and whisky and stuff? Will I have to grow my beard a bit and wear a scruffy jumper and sandals, or is that just British CAMRA people? To be perfectly clear, I usually do wear these items even when not drinking beer. In the end, I emailed them and reminded them that we’re booked on a ‘Midweek Vacation Package‘ instead but might slip my sandals in just in case.

The weather is looking interesting for our visit too. Might have to add some thermals to the suitcase

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-15C after dark might stop me from trying to take some night time shots.

Unpacked and repacked my camera gear again. Just sayin’.